Ingham Votes ‘Yes’ for Health and Parks millages

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By Alexa McCarthy
Ingham County Chronicle

Ingham County residents voted ‘yes’ for both county millages in Tuesday’s midterm elections. The Trails and Parks millage won with a margin of 54 percent to 45 percent. The Ingham Health Plan millage was renewed with a wide margin of 70 percent to 29 percent. Both results are with 100 percent of precincts reported, according to unofficial election results.

Trails and Parks Millage

The Ingham County Trails and Parks millage will be a .5-mill levy, or 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for six years. The millage will cost an Ingham County resident who owns a $100,000 house $50 per year. The millage will raise $3.2 million in the first year for a county system of recreational trails and adjacent park trails.

The idea for the millage was originally brought to the county commissioners in 2012 by Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero to regionalize the trails and parks in the county. The proposal was put on the ballot in August 2014.

Carol N. Koenig, Ingham County commissioner of District 9 and parks commission member, explained the plans for the funding. “The plan it to tie the trails within Ingham County together and to create a cohesive system.” said Koenig. “The money will also go toward maintaining the trails, for new equipment and to increase staffing.”

The millage will raise $10.2 million over six years to build four trails near Mason, Delhi Township, Williamston, Mason and Michigan State University.

Koenig said the the importance of the funding goes beyond maintaining and building parks and tails. “The people of Ingham County understand the importance of the parks and their effect on economic vitality,” she said. “It brings young people here because those are the types of things they want. And if you understand those things, it’s really a no-brainer.”

Health Services Millage Renewal

The Ingham County Health Plan millage was renewed to continue a .52-mill levy, 52 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. If levied in full, the millage will raise $3.4 million in the first year. The millage expires in 2015 and will now be in effect for five more years.

The millage funds the Ingham County Health Plan, which seeks to provide health-care for lower-income county residents who are not eligible for Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act and for individuals who make less than $28,000 per year and don’t have health insurance.

The health plan currently has a $9.6 million surplus. Administrators say that the surplus will not last long because of federal funding cuts at the end of this year under the Affordable Care Act. The millage will be the plan’s single source of funding.

Todd Tennis, Ingham County commissioner of District 5, said that the board will sit down with the Ingham County Health Plan and other county clinical services by the end of the year to determine a new plan. “We will be looking for other needs that county residents have, how much we need to fund the residents on the plan and also whether the millage should be levied in full for the 2015 year.”

In the past year, the Ingham Health Plan has disenrolled many of its residents and helped enroll them in extended Medicaid in anticipation of federal funding cuts. At its height, the plan had 4,000-5,000 enrolled. It now has under 1,000. Tennis said that this explains the surplus. But he said that there is still a gap for those who do not qualify for federal programs and can’t afford to get their own insurance.

Tennis said that the Ingham Health Plan has helped people go to the doctor and create a healthier life for themselves. “It allows low-income residents to have access to preventative care,” said Tennis. “The plan is bare bones compared to Medicaid, but it cuts costs for everyone down the road.”

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